As a result of the investigation, 18 people have been charged, including five people from Queens, said Brown.
Those charged are accused of stealing the cars from Queens County and around the tri-state area. The vehicles included Bentley Continental GTC Convertible, Mercedes Benz s550 4matic, as well as Audis, BMWs Range Rovers, Jeep Grand Cherokees and a Porsche Panamera. They allegedly stole, “tagged” the cars, then used “brokers” to sell them.
“The defendants charged in this case, dubbed ‘Operation Title Wave,’ brazenly shopped for high-end luxury vehicles as orders from their criminal cohorts were placed – plucking the automobiles right out of dealerships,” said Brown.
The defendants have been charged with enterprise corruption, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, conspiracy, illegal possession of a vehicle identification number, forgery of a vehicle identification number and forgery. If convicted, those charged with enterprise corruption face up to 25 years in prison. The other defendants face maximum sentences of between seven and 15 years in prison.
“The ring of thieves arrested in this case treated driveways, dealerships, parking lots and other locations like their personal showrooms, used GPS to track luxury vehicles and then burglarized businesses and unlocked vehicles for keys to drive their selections away,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. “Some are alleged to have additionally dealt narcotics.”
In addition to the auto crime charges, it was alleged that one of the defendants, Albert Natanov from Flushing, also operated a narcotics trafficking ring with two other individuals – Raymond O’Connell and Anthony Carrington – from which more than 20 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of approximately $1 million were recovered.
In the narcotics case, the three defendants have been charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance, attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy, criminal sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana.
The defendants were arraigned earlier this week in Queens Supreme Court and ordered to return to court on January 15.